Caught in a web of documents
he thought had been destroyed
Blood-splatter expert admits to misleading court
and failing to send a letter to the Crown
revealing concerns about the forensic report
Ian Mulgrew, Vancouver Sun, June 29, 2009
An RCMP blood-spatter expert has been accused of perjury and exposed in B.C. Supreme Court as the author of a flawed forensic report that got basic biology wrong.
Staff Sgt. Ross Spenards credibility was shredded during the recent second-degree murder trial of Charlie Rae Lincoln, an aboriginal woman convicted of stabbing to death her own two-year-old.
He acknowledged misleading the court and failing to send a letter to the Crown in the case revealing the concerns about the report and his errors.
Until now, Spenard testified, no one outside of the RCMP had been told about the doubt cast upon other cases, some of which have been reviewed by other specialists.
The officer has been a blood-pattern analyst for five years and giving evidence on the basis of his work as a recognized expert witness.
In this case, he claimed to have peer-reviewed a report he actually helped author that was based on the mistaken assumption that if someone was a possible contributor of a DNA profile, or if a person couldnt be excluded as contributing to a DNA profile, then you could say the blood came from that person.
Whats wrong with that logic is obvious: Anyone with a white car may be in the pool of suspects for a hit-and-run, but being potentially responsible is not the same as being culpable.
Armed with a copy of documents that Spenard thought were destroyed, defence lawyer Matthew Nathanson forced him to make a series of devastating admissions, none thankfully that affected the outcome of the trial.
The officer was at pains to try and mask the rewriting and review process that led to the creation of the impugned forensic report on blood spatter and DNA evidence in the brutal child-killing.
The document was riddled with so many DNA misinterpretations and errors that the top experts in the field were flown in from Edmonton and Halifax to correct it. Some conclusions were not scientifically sound, they said.
Spenard was ordered to submit future reports for review and told to send an explanatory letter to the Crown.
But he hid that from the judge until he withered under Nathansons cross-examination.
You were not being truthful, right? the lawyer said, confronting the Mountie with a transcript of his earlier testimony.
I was splitting hairs, the staff sergeant conceded.
Officer, Nathanson pressed brandishing the transcript, do you agree that by splitting hairs, you were not being completely truthful?
Yes, I agree.
Spenard admitted he wrote the report supposedly authored by Sgt. James Gallant.
That was an untrue answer that you gave to this jury in this case, right? Nathanson said.
Not correct, the Mountie replied. No, it was not.
Untrue, right? Nathanson continued. You said that he authored the report, right? You told the jury last week that [Sgt. Gallant] authored the report, right?
And I was in error.
That was untrue, was it not? Nathanson insisted.
No, it was not untrue, the officer dissembled. I was in error. I was mistaken.
You were confused about who had written the report? the lawyer scoffed.
The circumstances, yes, said the Mountie. I realized I had written the report.
The performance was as bad as any at the Braidwood inquiry into the death of Robert Dziekanski, which has also featured RCMP officers seemingly uncomfortable with the truth.
The force has conducted a review of other cases coming before the court in which Gallant was involved. But no review of completed cases in which he gave evidence has been done.
Spenard also misled the court during earlier proceedings into believing Gallant was no longer doing blood-spatter work because he was seconded to an RCMP Olympic unit. He is not doing any policing at the moment.
The Mountie said he lied under oath to protect his colleagues privacy.
Justice John Truscott has not specifically addressed Spenards misconduct, but he was savage in his charge to the jury.
You will recall the Staff Sgt. Spenard gave some evidence of blood found in... [a] house at different places, the justice said before sending the jurors to deliberate. You have heard the Crown totally ignore his evidence, and I suggest to you that you do ignore his evidence completely.
Staff. Sgt. Spenard is the perfect example of a person who clearly lied under oath, and violated his oath to tell the truth, and he even agreed to this. That conclusion is so clear and convincing, and so serious, that I suggest you should consider his evidence to be completely tainted, and without any value whatsoever.
After two days of deliberation, on June 17, the jury found the 23-year-old mom guilty of second-degree murder in the slaying of her toddler in July 2006 in the remote coastal town of Bella Bella.
Nathanson had argued for a verdict of manslaughter because Lincoln suffers from the effects of fetal-alcohol syndrome and associated psychiatric problems.